Screen time is a part of life for many young children. So if your child uses electronic media, it’s important to think about what educational and other benefits your child is getting from media. It’s also important to limit your child’s screen time and help your child develop healthy screen time habits.
Screen time for babies and toddlers
Screen time for young children is about choosing quality programmes and apps and developing healthy screen habits.
Child development experts also recommend limiting children’s daily screen time. Screen time limits can help lower the risks of screen time for your child, which include physical, developmental, safety and other risks.
The most recent screen time guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say that:
Your child will enjoy screen time more and learn more from it if you’re watching or playing with her. When you watch or play with your baby or toddler, it means she still gets what benefits her the most – your responses to her and the world around her.
Why screen time quality is important
Screens are a part of life for many young children.
If you’re thinking about whether your young child should watch TV or play on your phone, here’s a key question to ask: is this programme, video or app good quality? Good-quality media can be good for your child’s learning, especially if it ties in with his interests or sparks his imagination.
For example, a two-year-old can get a lot out of spending 15 minutes singing along to videos of nursery rhymes with you because this develops her language and literacy skills. If it’s a video that encourages her to be active – for example, by moving along to the rhymes – that’s even better. It’s much better than if she spends 15 minutes watching online animations that advertise and sell toys.
Choosing good-quality apps and games for young children
Good-quality apps or games for young children:
Other practical things to think about include:
Choosing good-quality TV programmes, movies and videos for young children
Good-quality TV programmes, movies and videos for young children:
Online reviews can help you decide whether a movie, app or game is high quality and has educational benefits.
Healthy screen time habits
Developing healthy screen time habits is an important part of making the most of screen time. And if your child develops healthy screen time habits while she’s young, these habits will help her make better choices about how to use her free time when she’s older.
Here’s how you can get started on these habits with your young child.
Role-modelling healthy screen time habits
Your child learns screen time habits from you. This means you can model healthy screen habits by using screen time in the way you want your child to use it – for example, by switching your phone off during dinner, or turning the TV off when you’ve finished watching a programme.
You can also set a good example by not always using technology to keep your child entertained in situations like long car journeys or while waiting at the hairdressers. Try mixing it up with things like playing ‘I spy’ or drawing. When you know you’re going to be in these situations, you could try packing an activity bag with puzzles, books, drawing materials and so on.
Playing on a device in boring situations will usually distract your child, but it can mean your child misses an opportunity to learn social skills like how to act in public, or how to manage boredom in creative ways. It can also mean your child ends up relying too much on technology for something to do.
Balancing screen time with other activities
Screen time can be a fun, learning experience for your child. But it’s important to balance screen time with other activities that are good for your child’s development, like lots of face-to-face creative play or physically active time with you and other caregivers.
You can find this balance for your child by:
Managing screen time
A good way to manage screen time is to have a way of marking when it’s time to finish – for example, when it’s dinner time or bath time, or the end of the programme. If you give your child a warning when it’s almost time to stop, he’ll be more likely to cooperate. It’ll also help if you make time to help your child save what he’s doing.
Video: Using technology
In this video, parents and their child talk about the different ways they use technology, and the family rules regarding usage of such devices.
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